Going abroad is a dream of almost every Filipino. Millions of Filipinos are scattered in every part of the world working in different fields. And yes, I am one of them. An ordinary Filipino citizen, I left my country full of ambition and hope for myself, my family and my country.
After learning that Thailand is opening its doors for foreign ESL/EFL teachers, I confidently crammed up my things and headed to the “land of smiles”. At first, making such decision was very hard since that would be my first time to stay away from my family. However, as I glimpsed on the brighter side of working abroad, I easily made my decision firm and immediately dealt with my passport and other preparations for my flight going to Thailand.
Things happened promptly that I woke up early one day joining the buoyant applicants in the field of language teaching. I really thought that things would turn out the way I expected them to happen but it was the other extreme. Contrary to what I believed, seeking for a job has never been that easy in Thailand. As twenty-year-old neophyte in the arena, I have encountered plenty of appalling incidents along the way such as the slur of not being entertained because I am not a Caucasian, the frustration of not being understood when asking for directions, the bleakness of applying in the remote areas in the provinces where nobody understands my purpose for coming in their school and many others. In all honesty, I was in an uphill struggle before I landed a teaching job in Thailand. However, I did my best to hurdle every impediment along the way just to find a shelter that would embrace my ambition of joining Thailand's international teaching force.
As any job-hunter would experience, my application in different schools has been turned down for various reasons (i.e. no vacancy, they need English native speakers only, I am too young, etc.). But still, I did not lose hope and continued to believe my dreams. Luckily, a Filipino acquaintance while attending Sunday mass in a Catholic church offered help by guiding me to a province called Samutsongkhram. That province is the smallest in Thailand composed of only three districts. Of all the schools I have visited that day, I was lucky enough to hear positive response from the head of the English Department of the last school I visited. Although she said that they already have two English native speaking foreign teachers from Canada and England, I could still sense her eagerness to hire another foreign teacher.
The following week, I received a phone call from that same school. They asked me to come for interview and teaching demonstration. Eventually, I passed in the interview and demonstration lesson with a unanimous vote from all English teachers in that school. That very day, I assured them that if given a chance to work in their school, I would do my best to showcase the ability of the Filipino teachers. I could still clearly remember how I reassured them that as a Filipino hoping to teach in Thailand, I would do my best not to disappoint my very own country and so their school. Yes, that sounded like an interview cliche.
That good news I received was not the end of my battle but the beginning of my real journey as an OFW. With my family's unending encouragement although they're very far and my conviction that life would not give me something I couldn't bear, I leaped over the challenge of teaching young Thai kids who have zero or very limited English. It was my first time to teach seven-year-old kids in an actual classroom situation and what added to that first time experience was the fact that most of those kids have just started learning English as their foreign language. Most of them could hardly utter even simple greetings in English. That experience was really challenging and very fulfilling at the same time especially when I heard them speak the language for the first time.
Over the months, I taught classes of different levels until I was permanently assigned in the 6th Grade. I showed great interest and respect to my students' culture, tradition, interests and identity and provided the help they needed whenever possible. I have been with them in almost every English contest they joined including the unforgettable Skit Contest which brought us to the provincial and national levels. In return, my students eagerly shared what they have by helping me understand their culture and feel happy about it. Interestingly, I learned Thai language from my students.
In the end, I have understood the real value of teaching abroad from my young Thai students. My perspective towards my profession has become more global and diverse. In the light of teaching, I have seen how my passion and dedication changed the lives of my students. I realized that my decision to go abroad has never been in vain for I have harvested more than what I have expected. As I look back the difference I made in my students' lives, I never thought of my main reason in coming to Thailand anymore for I got more than what I really wanted.
The following school year, my school hired another Filipino to work with me. However, after teaching there for one year and six months, I left for a better teaching opportunity and better pay in Bangkok. The best thing was their trust in me was still there although I was leaving because, for the last time, they asked me a favor to find a replacement who is a Filipino and if possible, "as good as me". I left that school with pride and looked forward for another bountiful experience to show my ability as Filipino teacher in a huge Catholic school in Bangkok, Thailand. So far, I just had my contract renewed last June 2009 for another one year and I am still looking forward on continuing my teaching career in Thailand for the next few years.
My being a Filipino will never end every time I leave the Philippines for wherever my fate brings me, my heart will always linger to my very own roots. Doing my best and expressing my passion to my host country would not necessarily mean that I am treacherous to my own country for every good thing I do for this temporary home of mine is a reminder that as an OFW, I give hope to our nation and I share blessings to the rest of the world.
Mabuhay ang mga OFWs!
Post Script: This blog post is an official entry to Pinoy Expats Blog Awards (PEBA) 2009. For more information about this award-giving body, click the image below